I have only been to Boston a handful of times. I can no way claim any of the tragedy or sorrow for myself except as a bystander who, like all of us, watched on horrified as the aftermath of the attacks happened.
Boston, though, was always the dream. When I found out last year that I had to stop running for a while, a large part of my heart-hurt was giving up the dream of qualifying for the Boston Marathon (“BQ’ing”) anytime soon. Initially, I had planned on BQing at least a few years ago, but then was hit by a car, etc etc etc.
So, last year, I watched the Boston marathon coverage pre-bombing pretty passively. It was a little salt in a still-healing wound. I was also dealing with the fact that my aunt was going to pass any day now (she passed away the next day), and was in a bad place.
Then, I started seeing horrified tweets from folks about what was happening, and turned on the television. The smoke. The panic. The horror. The unspeakable tragedies. The fear. That it happened at the finish line was its own set of horrors.
I can’t describe to you what finishing a marathon is like. It’s a mix of physically feeling as though you have been punched in the stomach, legs, hips, and feet over and over and the mental feeling of getting out of a horrible maze and being rewarded a million puppy snuggles. The roller coaster of emotions while you’re on the track is everything from certain death to feeling like you are the most-badass-rock-star-athletic-muthafucka on earth and you should do this in the Olympics or something BECAUSE YOU ARE THAT GOOD. You’re running anywhere from 2.5 (elites) to 4.5 (me) hours and there are moments in there where you are sure your legs will come off, or that you can’t go another step, or that it’s too painful for not worth it.
But the spectators and other people at the race always make it feel like there is so much excitement and love. I am admittedly a solo runner, but races are my exception for loving company. People will see your name on your bib and shout it, just because they’re proud of anyone finishing what so many think of as insurmountable. Runners are egging each other on as some limp to just make it over that damn line at the end and feel glory under that banner. People make funny signs, cut up fruit and pour water/gatorade/beer into little dixie cups to hand out to folks, and yell words of encouragement for no other reason than just to be kind people. At the end, folks unabashedly raise their voice in what I can only describe (in a really cheesy way) as this triumphant chorus and cacophony of celebration. Everyone watching knows everyone who crosses worked their asses off, trained for months (or more), devoted hours and hours to running just to feel this, achieve this.
As a runner, spectators make races worthwhile. Spectators have gotten me through my lowest points as a runner, and helped me get one foot in front of the other when I thought I had cashed in everything I had. Their kindness is what makes me want to run. Race spectators are often the folks who restore my faith in humanity
So, seeing the tragedy at Boston’s finish line nearly a year ago completely set me into a panic. Cut to me in a fetal position on the floor, just crying. Why? Why? How are people so cruel? How could life be so cruel?
Well, nearly a year has gone by, and I’ve regained most of my ability to run. Without question, seeing the running community band together is what made me want to do it. I knew spectators would keep spectating, and so I had to keep running. I knew that the survivors and the families of those killed who keep fighting, and so I had to keep running. In all things, running has been my constant. Anyone who tried to sully that with hatred had to lose. They couldn’t scare me away. They never will. I hope you never get scared either.
So, 2 ways to support Boston this year (many more exist I’m sure, but I just wanted to signal boost these two):
- you can run a virtual race like I am (so cool!)
- you can donated to MR8, the Martin Richards Foundation